After a painless 2 ½-hour-drive with just one stop to examine a golf course at Paraparaumu for Nikko, we arrived in Wellington. The city has a gorgeous setting and reminds me of Vancouver, BC quite a bit. The hotel Mark had found through a last-minute bargain website (to which our neighbor Laurie had directed us)was super: The Copthorne, right on the harbour in Oriental Bay, with a balcony overlooking the boardwalk where locals and tourists biked, ran, and strolled by the whole time we were there. (It met with Alex’s approval because David Beckham stayed there recently – and it also had a great indoor pool on the 7th floor. ) Our first stop was the famed BurgerFuel– which Mark had read about online from the US– where we had a little afternoon snack of their signature “Bastard” burger – beef, bacon, mango, avocado, cheese, lettuce, tomato, aioli, ketchup. It was big and it was good. Just across the street in the center of a major city crossroads was a huge bungee ride and we watched some guys go thwang in that.
We then took the cable car up the hill to the botanical gardens from which you get a great view of the city and many different plants of course – gorgeous rose garden and even trees dressed in lacy underwear (yes kids, that’s art). We stopped at the cool flagship bar/brewery of a hip local brewer called Macs where you can inhale the fine scent of brewing (boys not so fond of that smell) and then they begged for Indian food for dinner so we headed to the main walking street drag to a recommended spot. It was fine although everything was quite a bit sweeter than we’re used to, including naan bread with Christmas-themed dried fruit (even green maraschinos!) baked into it. (Now that's fusion.)
Thursday we spent basically the whole day in the huge national musuem, Te Papa, a few minutes walk from our hotel along the boardwalk. It is really amazing with treasures of natural history, culture, and art along with multimedia attractions (like a simulated earthquake and a deepsea dive) that kept the kids happy. A life-size bull made of corned beef cans was featured in one exhibit, representing the Western introduction of “pisupo,” or canned foods, named for the first product introduced in cans to NZ: pea soup. We ate dinner in a really good Italian restaurant called Zibibbo after finding out that the Maori restaurant recommended by Lonely Planet had closed, sadly. Still waiting to taste authentic Maori food. (Our waiter, incidentally, was Irish and we had good service. There really is no tipping here and the service is quite different than in the States. It’s always initially friendly, but there’s absolutely no guarantee they’ll come back to check on you, see if you want more drinks or water, and you practically have to beg for the bill most places.)